Korea’s response to U.S. deployment of THAAD very clearly reads to the character of Koreans. Koreans have the determination, resolve, and tenacity to advocate unapologetically for peace in their country. Their protests are focused, and their message is resounding. The time for peace is now on the Korean peninsula.
It is important to take note of the village that THAAD is currently being placed into, to my knowledge, without the consent of community members. In addition to the Soseongri village being home to many, it is also the home of the Won Buddhist religion. The road leading to the site where THAAD has been placed blocks a path the monks use as a part of their pilgrimage, it is significant to Won Buddhist history because it is the place where their founder met their second leader.
Furthermore, the people in Soseongri village do not want to be involved with U.S. attempts to intimidate North Korea. It is not lost on this community that the actions of the U.S. are not about safety or about peace. There are no illusions of this being for the betterment of Korea’s security. It is, quite simply, a violation. And the U.S. is violating this village in hopes to gain – something, I don’t know – from the DPRK or China or both countries. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) clearly makes South Korea a target for a potentially violent response (from North Korea or China) and in no way promotes peace in the Korean peninsula. Korea is almost, it seems, to be viewed by the U.S. as disposable. The utter carelessness in which the U.S. deploys and removes military is disturbing and disruptive to the community and the Korean citizens.
The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) have recently visited Soseongri to host ecumenical solidarity worship services in protest of the placement of the THAAD system in Korea. The NCCK joins the residents of Soseongri in calling on the governments of South Korea and the US to rescind the decision to install THAAD and to remove all that has been installed. The NCCK calls on the US to stop increasing tension on the peninsula with continued provocations like THAAD, stationing their nuclear-powered submarine on the peninsula, and assigning two nuclear aircraft carriers to increase the threat to North Korea.
It is not unlike the U.S. to have this disposition in regards to Korea because it is not unlike U.S.’s past in Korea or the Philippines or Hawaii… our actions clearly read to the character of our (US) nation. The carelessness in which decisions are being made by the U.S. moves peace and reunification farther away from being a reality in the Korean peninsula.
In 1953 an Armistice agreement was signed by the United Nations Command (UNC) [side note: the UNC signed the Armistice on behalf of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the UN commander was a US general], Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and People’s Republic of China. It was an agreement to cease all hostilities from the Korean War with the provision of attaining a final peace settlement or peace treaty in the near future over 60 years ago. To this day a peace treaty has not been signed. Peace must come from an open dialogue where both sides are able to succeed and the global community can unite. With South Korea’s new administration there is hope that the Korean peninsula will again have talks about peace. On the other hand, with the U.S. new administration, the Korean peninsula could be set back 65 years to the war.
I have learned much from being in Korea. Most importantly, I learned that peace takes work. It is hard. And it is work. Peace is not simple and cannot be achieved by prayer and hope alone but it is worth it. Seeing the success of the candlelight protest changed me. Koreans worked so hard for their rights to have a leader who reflects the values of the nation. The work Koreans are doing now to have a nation that is a reflection of the people is impressive. The work of peace is, in fact, work. I am proud to play whatever role I am given in helping unite the Korean peninsula but more than anything I am ready to work.
No THAAD in Korea, only peace!